Burundi police break up protests against president
Police in Burundi battled protestors Monday in a second day of demonstrations over a bid by the central African nation’s president for a third term in office.
At least six people have been killed in street clashes between the police and civilians demonstrating against the Burundian president’s bid for a third term, a spokesman for the Burundi Red Cross said on Monday, as hundreds continued to gather in the streets of the capital despite a heavy military presence.
Three people were killed in clashes with the police on Sunday and three others died of their injuries overnight, Alexis Manirakiza told The Associated Press by phone from Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital.
Seven more people had been wounded, he said.
Authorities also detained a leading human rights activist and issued an arrest warrant for another leader of the campaign to block President Pierre Nkurunziza’s at- tempt to cling to power.
The unrest erupted on Sunday after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, designated Nkurunziza its candidate in the June 26 presidential election.
The president, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian, has been in power since 2005.
Opposition figures and rights groups say his attempt to stay put goes against the constitution as well as the peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the more-thandecade-long conflict.
On Monday demonstrators were back on the streets, with police using tear gas in Cibitoke, in the north of Bujumbura, to prevent around 1,000 demonstrators reaching the centre. Several other demonstrations were reported across the capital.
The government has banned all protests, and on Sunday halted nationwide broadcasts by Burundi’s three main independent radio stations, which have been accused of encouraging an “uprising” against the government.
Leading human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was also arrested Monday. A witness, who asked not to be named, said Mbonimpa was arrested “brutally” during a police raid on the headquarters of a media association.
Mbonimpa’s lawyer, Armel Niyongere, said he had not been informed of the charges against his client but believed “the arrest is linked to his call for demonstrations today.”
An arrest warrant has also been issued for Vital Nshimirimana, head of a prominent NGO forum.
Relatives of Sunday’s slain demonstrators told AFP that they were shot at close range by police.
But speaking on state television, Bujumbura’s mayor Saidi Juma claimed the pair were killed by other demonstrators.
Two further deaths during overnight violence were confirmed by the army.
At least 15,000 Burundians have fled the country to neighboring Rwanda in recent weeks, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency, which has warned that those numbers could rise.
Many are fleeing threats by the pro- government militia Imbon- erakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party. Rights groups allege that the militia has been armed and trained over the past year in order to help Nkurunziza remain in office.
On Saturday, Washington condemned Nkurunziza’s candidacy and warned the country was “losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy.”
After Sunday’s protest deaths, the African Union appealed to Burundi’s government to “exercise the highest restraint and protect the population.”
The influential Catholic Church has also spoken out against the president’s plans to stay put.
U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned recently the country was at a “crossroads” between a fair vote and a route back to its “horrendously violent past.”
(Right) Demonstrators protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in power in Bujumbura on Monday.
(Left) Burundian riot police patrol in the capital Bujumbura on Monday, April 27.